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Tihar jail security: SC says passing of buck between MHA, Delhi govt needs to be dealt with

The direction comes after ED revealed last year in November that it unearthed a 'secret underground office' in Tihar operated by jailed ex-Unitech promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday said the “passing of buck” between the Centre, DG Prison and Delhi government has to be dealt with by “effective coordination” and decision making and directed that a meeting be held within a week on taking some concrete decisions for implementing Delhi Police Commissioner’s report on Tihar jail reforms.

The top court told the Centre that only paper work is no solution and corrective measures are to be taken on the ground, so that there is no repetition of the incident like collusion of Tihar Jail officials with the ex-Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra.

The Enforcement Director had made a startling revelation in November last year that it had unearthed a “secret underground office” here which was being operated by erstwhile Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and visited by his sons Sanjay and Ajay when on parole or bail.

Both Sanjay and Ajay, in jail since August 2017, are accused of allegedly siphoning home buyers’ money.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said the report of Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana will gather dust unless effective steps are taken to implement it.

“In this backdrop, we are of the view that the passing of buck between the authorities of the Centre namely MHA, at the level of DG Prison and the Delhi government must be dealt with by effective coordination and expeditious decision making,” the bench said.

“We accordingly direct that within a period of one week from today, a meeting shall be held between an officer of the level of secretary in the MHA, the DG Prison at Tihar Jail and the Chief secretary of NCT of Delhi,” it said.

The top court said the meeting shall take some concrete decisions towards implementing the report of the CP, Delhi and file a comprehensive affidavit indicating the manner in which implementation would be carried out, the timeline stipulated and the steps to be taken.

It added that once a commitment is made to the court, it is expected that it shall be observed scrupulously.

“The commissioner of Police, Delhi, shall attend the meeting as an invitee, since the recommendations which are in the report are to be duly implemented. A joint affidavit prepared by the three officers named above shall be submitted to this court containing the decisions taken, timelines for implementation and steps to be taken in that regard,” the bench said.

At the outset, the bench noted that an affidavit of compliance has been filed on behalf of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), purporting to set out the steps which have been taken to comply with the report for upgrading the security at Tihar Jail in order to obviate incidents such as the one which have been noticed by the court in the present case.

It said the affidavit filed by MHA basically relies on the contents of the model prison manual of 2016 and the ministry has stated that the recommendations, which have been made in the Commissioner’s report are worthy of acceptance and should be implemented.

“The issue is how these (recommendations) should be implemented and whether any steps have been taken in that regard. Prima facie we observe that adequate steps are yet to be taken to implement the recommendations of the CP, despite the previous directions of this court”, it said.

The bench flagged three areas of concern saying that with regard to installation of cell phone jammers it has been stated that the committee of experts formed by secretary (security), Cabinet Secretariat recommended a dominant tower technology to be used to block mobile signals inside jail complexes.

It noted that on an experimental basis, the technology was put to use in Mandoli jail complex here in January, 2020 and three dominant towers were erected in Tihar complex in November, 2021.

“It has been stated that the results of these towers have been good but regular monitoring is required by the telecom service provider (TSP). The Department of Telecommunication has proposed a draft SOP which is under consideration of secretary (security)”, the bench said.

It said that Delhi prisons are to purchase full body X-Ray scanners and the process is on and noted that 7000 CCTV cameras have been installed in 16 jails which record 30 days of movements.

The bench noted the submission of Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan that prison is a state subject and hence necessary directions have been issued to the Delhi government to ensure compliance.

The bench noted that from the submissions it emerges that the DG Prisons is an official sent on deputation from Delhi police and the Superintendent of Police are from generally speaking officers drawn from DANIPS services.

ASG KM Nataraj appearing for Delhi police said though the DG Prison is an officer on deputation, ultimately all decisions have to be taken by the Delhi government.

During the hearing, Divan said that the Enforcement Directorate has lodged a prosecution complaint against Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and his daughter in-law Preeti Chandra and one more complaint is to be lodged against Sanjay and Ajay Chandra brothers.

On November 10 last year, the top court had said that it is a “sorry state of affairs” in Tihar Jail which has become a den of criminals and murders are happening there, and had directed the Home Ministry to take immediate steps on prison reforms and enhance management.

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

Also read: SC orders probe after ED says Unitech ex-promoters were operating from inside Tihar

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